Thomas Woodward had been around the Portland High School golf program.

Now, he’s leading it.

Woodward is the head coach of the program this season after serving as an assistant coach under Julia Coots a year ago.

“I am excited,” Woodward said. “I never really imagined being in this position a couple of years ago, but it’s awesome. I get to be involved in the program and try to help the kids out as best I can.”

Woodward was a four-year golfer for the Panthers.

“I really didn’t decide to get into teaching until a couple of years ago,” Woodward said. “I moved back here from Knoxville. That’s where I went to school (at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville). There was a science-teaching opening at the school. I entered the master’s program with Union (University) down at Hendersonville. I started substitute teaching and kind of got my foot in the door.

“Once I came back and she (Coots) asked about helping, it was a no-brainer to come back and get involved with the program.”

The 26-year-old Woodward is a 2012 graduate of Portland High.

“As far as being out on the course, that’s something I’ve been familiar,” Woodward said. “The behind-the-scenes stuff and interacting with coaches was all kind of new. I know that I can rely on her and Timmy (Elliott, the program’s long-time head coach) if I ever need anytning. They’ll be there for me.”

Woodward — who is also an assistant coach for the Panther boys basketball program — is hoping that the program provides a positive experience for the golfers.

“I just want it to be something the kids can look forward to,” Woodward said. “Sometimes, kids can work their way up and get scholarships. I played with a few kids in high school who did.

“Golf is one of those things you can play forever. It would give them a good hobby to keep on doing after they graduate.”

Currently, Portland has 13 boys and two girls in its golf program. However, none of those golfers are seniors.

“We’re hoping to have a decent year this year and be able to build on it for next year for sure,” Woodward said. “There’s definitely some who have potential. Most of those guys want to play throughout the whole year and play in the (Tennessee Golf Foundation) Sneds Tour. There’s a few who have some drive to go out there and get better.”

The program is challenged by competing in a district with perennial powers such as the Hendersonville boys (a four-time state champion and two-time state runner-up) and the Station Camp girls (the 2018 and 2019 state champion).

“I try to tell them that the district is tough, so they need to be working during the offseason,” Woodward said. “Once the matches come, I just want them to focus and not really compare themselves to everybody else.”

The Panther golfers opened the season last week, and Portland is only playing a district schedule this fall.

Portland is actually hosting the district tournament, which will be played at Gallatin’s Long Hollow Golf Course.

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